AW Recommends California Rivers for Wild and Scenic
By: Megan Hooker
Last week, American Whitewater recommended that the U.S. Forest Service assess whether numerous whitewater rivers in California are eligible for Wild and Scenic status. The agency is currently revising Forest Plans for the Inyo, Sequoia and Sierra National Forests, and this process provides an opportunity to evaluate rivers for whether they are eligible for Wild and Scenic designation. If a river is found eligible through this process, the Forest Service protects the values that could make it worthy for Wild and Scenic designation, including its free-flowing characteristics.
The most recent Forest Plans were last updated in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. This is an important time to weigh in on protecting rivers, as these revised plans will ultimately guide the agency in managing the Forests for the next 15 years.
In 2015, the Forest Service inventoried 965 river segments–totaling over 2,400 miles of river–across the Inyo, Sierra and Sequoia National Forests for free-flowing character and outstanding value. Late last year, the agency released a Draft Wild and Scenic Evaluation for public comment. American Whitewater reviewed the Draft, and although we were very pleased to see that the agency performed an extensive review of rivers found within each Forest, we were disappointed to see that whitewater recreation was largely overlooked. American Whitewater commented during the scoping process in 2013 and recommended that the Forest Service evaluate a number of rivers and creeks with whitewater values. Unfortunately, these comments were largely ignored in the Draft Evaluation and many of the rivers we initally recommended were left out of the inventory.
American Whitewater provided comment again to ensure that whitewater boating values are recognized for iconic runs like the Lower Kern, Dinkey Creek and the San Joaquin, and for whitewater creeks that provide a technical challenge like Piute Creek (tributary of the SF San Joaquin), Dry Meadow Creek, Mono Creek and Bear Creek. You can check out our comments here for a list and description of all the rivers we recommended.
If you have feedback on additional rivers with whitewater values within the Inyo, Sierra or Sequoia National Forests, let us know.
For more information about Forest Planning in California, visit the Forest Service’s Region 5 Forest Planning page.